The Takeaway: Arnold Palmer delivers a strong test with varying fairway widths, plenty of trouble, and some severe elevation changes. Certainly one of Iowa’s best public courses that will create a love/hate relationship among visitors with several memorable holes. Grade B-
Designer: Arnold Palmer in 2003
Cost: $25 - $65 (includes cart) Click for current rates
Phone Number: (515) 984-9440
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Tournament Club of Iowa's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 1000 Tradition Dr, Polk City, Iowa 50226 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: Located just north of Des Moines between Saylorville Lake and Big Creek Lake, Tournament Club of Iowa (TCI) encompasses 230 of the 500 acres dedicated to the development. The terrain features some extreme elevation changes that help create some dramatic and memorable holes which is further complemented by the numerous water hazards on the course that come into play on about half the holes. The variety of hole lengths and shapes is great, but in classic Arnold Palmer fashion, the par 5s feature the most compelling designs and dictate much of the success you'll have going around this track. The course also lives up to its reputation as being one of Iowa's most difficult tests with offline shots often being punished with a lost ball. Some of that can be because the fairways often appear wide but the effective playing area can be tighter due to trees or the shaping of the hole. While walking the course is an option, you better summon your inner mountain goat to get around this challenging routing without the assistance of a cart. When all is said and done, in the battle for the best public course in Iowa, TCI makes a strong claim as being #1.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 5th Hole – 185 Yard Par 3 – The dramatic 5th hole sits at the north end of the property and plays over a creek to a green that angles away from the player along the edge of the hazard. While the right side has less carry to reach and has more putting surface to land on, there is a false front that can repel balls to the hazard. A back left flag though is a sucker's pin that should not be attacked on the fly and is better reached by hitting a shot to the middle of the green and letting the slope work the ball to the left third of the green. Pars here are well deserved and bode well to creating momentum moving forward.
Best Par 3: 3rd Hole – 186 Yards – The 3rd hole slopes from the middle to the back left like a Redan but has several different design elements such as a recessed tongue in front, additional putting surface in the back right, and instead of bunkers on the left there is a sharp ledge that falls off into the forest. The tee shot plays over a ravine and features a hillside right of the green that can be utilized to tumble balls off of and onto the putting surface but missing any other direction will result in trouble or a lost ball.
Best Par 4: 18th Hole – 459 Yards – Tournament Club of Iowa is known as one of the most difficult courses in the state and this finishing hole certainly contributes to that reputation. The tee shot plays over a pond to a bunkerless fairway before bending left around a second pond that the green rests behind. A large crescent bunker wraps around the green on the right and water has to be carried again in order to find the green in regulation. The approach shot plays a few feet uphill but not enough to adjust for unless you are between clubs, then you'll want to take the longer of the two. No matter how things have gone up to this point during your round, if you can walk off the 18th with a par then you deserve a soda at the 19th hole.
Best Par 5: 4th Hole – 593 Yards – Measuring just shy of 600 yards, the 4th hole is an exciting three-shotter that descends 50 feet from tee to green. The fairway doglegs left midway through the hole and navigates over and next to four large bunkers enroute to the green. Two of the bunkers cross the fairway completely and require a forced carry to clear and become major factors to consider when going for the green or laying up since they come into play under both scenarios. This is the beginning of the dramatic holes that begin to unfold at Tournament Club of Iowa.
Birdie Time: 14th Hole – 325 Yard Par 4 – This hole is nothing short of a gift. Tipping out at 325 yards and totally devoid of bunkers, the 14th is an opportunity to cut loose on your driver and get it as close to the green as possible. 50 yards from the green the fairway stretches out to 70 yards in width so there is plenty of room to work with in the driving zone, but if you can get it over on the left side you'll have the ideal angle to attack the green. Regardless of where in the fairway you end up you should be able to go pinseeking with your wedge and hit it close enough to finish the hole with a birdie.
Bogey Beware: 12th Hole – 442 Yard Par 4 – The 12th hole may be one of the most difficult two-shotters in the state where length and accuracy must be combined for any chance of success. In fact, this hole is borderline insane and I'm sure many rounds have been wrecked here. The tee shot plays over a ravine to a fairway that doglegs hard left 250 yards from the back tee, so driver isn't necessarily the play. If you go too far you are blocked out by the right tree line and hitting too soft results in getting blocked out by the left tree line. With overgrown trees on each side you have to hit a near perfect tee shot and follow it up with an equally perfect approach shot over another ravine with a false front. The green is twice as deep as it is wide so there is little forgiveness to be had on this hole that sees more double bogies, or worse, than bogies.